which boat(s)?

Well, there doesn’t seem to be a perfect category for this, so I didn’t assign one.

My wife and I would like to have something to paddle. Tandem or solo…it doesn’t matter. Right now, we’re limited to the borrow or rent route. At this point, we’re really interested in an all-rounder to get us started, and later we can pick up purpose-built boats.

First off, what we probably WON’T do with it: whitewater over class II, heavy surf, crossing large bodies of open water.

What we probably WILL do with it (in order of frequency):

–smallish, somewhat shallow streams and rivers (Class I or so) with frequent sand/gravel bars or rocks.

–large, slow-moving rivers (we currently live in Pittsburgh, but probably not for too much longer)

–reservoirs, lakes, ponds…mostly close to shore, but potential crossings of open areas

–small rivers up to class II whitewater (rock impacts possible or likely)

–camping trips…we already own good, lightweight backpacking gear, so our loads will not be huge. most of our camping trips will involve paddling calmer water

–occasional fishing, at least for me

My wife and I are both smallish people. I’m 5’8 150, and she is 5’4 120. We’re not terribly experienced paddlers, but I am pretty comfortable in a canoe. Neither of us have a lot of experience in kayaks, but they do appeal to us. We have checked some out, and have had the opportunity to test paddle a few in calm waters.

Are there kayaks out there that would suit our desires adequately? Maybe a light touring boat in a 14-15’ range? I fear a rec boat wouldn’t have the capacity for camping gear or the efficiency for paddling far on flatwater (especially with both camping gear AND lots of flatwater).

How about canoes? What tandem hulls would work for such variety? How about solo canoes? I don’t see these very often, and will probably not have a chance to test paddle one without a very significant road trip, but some look pretty good to me.

What about some of the boats that blur the lines? SOT kayaks? These seem to be either good for calm water OR for waves/whitewater. No middle ground. Besides, they seem wetter, and therefore would be unsuitable for paddling the middle yough, where water temps are QUITE cold, even in summertime. Also, what about something like a Rob Roy? Does anyone make one in royalex or polyethylene (resistance to rocks/gravel)? What about solo canoes with a double bladed paddle? I’ve seen some (Bell makes one) that are intended to be used this way. How does this change the handling of the boat?

I’ve been looking for the right boat for awhile now, and every time I think I know what I want, something changes. I’ve accepted the fact that I am eventually going to own a fleet of boats, but for my first boat (or two), I would like something pretty generalist so I can do most things and be happy (and rent something specialized when I want to paddle somewhere my generalist boat can’t handle).

I think you nailed it
"Maybe a light touring boat in a 14-15’ range?"

That’s what I would suggest. Something like a WS Tsunami, Perception Carolina or Dagger Specter. I bet you end up paddling flat water more than you think you will - I did. These boats will cross a lake easier than a rec boat. I’m a SOT guy, but these are kind of specialized and most are frustratingly slow barges - don’t get one unless you need one.


– Last Updated: Jul-05-07 9:03 AM EST –

I'd say a small tandem canoe or a pair of "light touring" solo kayaks would be a good start. Most tandem kayaks are fairly heavy, and from your sizes I'd guess weight could be an issue.

On the canoe side, something like an Old Town Penobscot 16, Wenonah Adirondack, or Bell Morningstar or Northstar might work well. All will work as solos in fairly calm conditions but like any lightly-loaded canoe, the freeboard is an issue when the wind picks up.

In kayaks, I'd add the Necky Manitous or the Eliza to the ones mentioned. The Hurricane kayaks are lighter than average. Do take the time to find a boat that's a good fit for your wife -- I know from experience how frustrating a too-big boat and paddle can be.

If you like to build, the Pygmy Tern 14 would be ideal.

Gravel and an occasional rock shouldn't be a problem for a composite boat, and the weight advantage can be significant.

For occasional fishing any boat will work. Serious fishermen generally prefer the room of a canoe, SOT, or large-cockpit rec boat.

In solo canoes, Placid Boatworks makes some nice light double-blade-paddle models. For single-blade models, the Hemlock Kestrel would give great flatwater performance for your body size.

Most tandem kayaks I’ve seen have been the single cockpit style. For me, while they’re not exactly a joy to move around, they’re manageable (except for the plastic perception carolina tandem…that one really wasn’t even all that manageable, even for two fairly strong guys). My wife is the one most concerned with weight. Whatever boat(s) we get, I’m sure we’ll have at least one portage cart.

So you’re saying a light touring yak OR a canoe would work for us all else being equal? Hmmm. My wife tried out a carolina and she felt like that boat was way too big (a bit wide, and a really high deck). Any other light tourers out there that might fit her better? I felt pretty good in a 14.5 carolina, so that one might work for me if we decide on yaks.

Canoes have been a bit tougher to evaluate, since we’re dealing with two paddlers. The last time we paddled a canoe, it was one we had borrowed and the paddles weren’t right for the water. We were paddling class II whitewater, and I was using a straight shaft beavertail, and my wife was using the right blade shape, but the shaft was WAY too long. It made the boat handle rather unpredictably, which made me cranky sitting in the stern. We nearly made it down the river unscathed, but we took a swim just before the takeout.

I would probably feel much better about a canoe if we had the right paddles the last time we used one.

light tourers
While those boats are certainly options, I think you underestimate how much moving water I have the option to paddle. I’ve got a group of friends I paddle with, and they rarely choose calm water trips for group trips. It’s almost always stream paddling. As I’m trying to get into graduate school for next year, I could well end up anywhere, which means there’s a possibility for me to end up in an area where moving water is the only option. There’s also the possibility I could end up somewhere that calm water is the only option, or where coastal paddling is prevalent. I could also find myself somewhere with all types of water to paddle.

While I appreciate the suggestion, I’d really like to hear more about how these types of boats handle moving water.

Interesting comment about composites with rocks and gravel. It seems to be contrary to most of what I’ve read. Every now and again, I’ll hear about some downriver boat built to handle certain whitewater conditions that’s available in one composite or another.

If composites are okay, does that include wood/glass composite boats? I like to work with my hands, and the idea of building a boat is pretty attractive to me, but I have no idea how rugged they are. I see you mention one, too.

If your wife is willing paddle solo, get
two solo boats and eliminate any potential divorce boat scenarios. My wife wouldn’t go on any paddling trips if she had to paddle solo so we paddle a tandem canoe. Also, we have two dogs we bring on our trips when possible. A canoe works for us since we need the volume for the dogs and our gear when we go tripping which is usually twice a year. A tandem canoe paddled solo unless loaded down, can be very hard to control in the wind; plus you have to paddle towards the middle which is fairly wide on a tandem. Two solo canoes would be a good choice if you need more volume than a kayak.

Don’t discount a composite layup since they are very strong and can handle impacts. I wouldn’t consider one though if I thought I’d going to spend a lot of time paddling in rock gardens. They don’t slide over the rocks like a Royalex so you’ll end up lining when in a Royalex you’ll stay in the boat and push off with a paddle. I have a Kevlar tripping canoe that took some hard impacts over the years and has it scars but is still going strong. They’re easy to repair. If you can get a lighter layup go for it since it makes loading it on the car and hauling it to the water much easier.

check these out

Might be a little short but if you are interested in a little fast water also combined with some light touring this may be something to look at.


click on new for 2007. I paddled the prototype of this boat and let me tell you it is a wonderful combination boat. I loved the 12 footer in the surf and wind waves even though the 14 obviously would track better. extremely stable (you can put your feet over the side and have it at an angle) great open storage, excellent tracking etc etc.

comes in 12 and 14 foot sizes.

both could handle the class 1 and 2 you are referring to.

I am going to make a suggestion though. I think you should wait until you know where you are going to choose the perfect boat for the location you are in.

demo and demo and then demo some more, rent a few times to get the feel of a boat.


Carolina 13.5
Not all Carolinas are created equal! I am shorter than your wife, and slightly heavier, and my Carolina is the 2004 13.5. I feel as if was made for me. The 14.5 felt like I was wearing my husband’s size 11 shoes. I think they’ve discontinued the 13.5 but you can find them used. Which actually isn’t a bad way to go.

The suggestion below of waiting to see where you end up before settling on yaks is a good one, though.

I second Paul’s Comment
You should wait until you know where you are goint to be in a year.

Another thing is consider your wallet. Some of the lighter options are pricey.

Do you know how often you will be using the boat[s]?

I have a canoe and a kayak. The kayak I use weekly, if not daily. i paddle at lunch. The canoe is for use with family, friends and for the occasional camping trip.

Before the kayak, I used the canoe constantly. I paddled solo in up to class II, on open [ >1 mile wide ] water with some white caps, and everything in between. In addition, I used it as I do now. I got the kayak only because it is so much lighter for me to carry. That’s not to say that I’ve not found its other advantages.

Continue to rent, or borrow [buy paddles?] until you know where you are really going to paddle.

well? NM

I’ve read everyone’s suggestions and have thought a bit about it.

I really do like paddling solo. While a tandem (or bigger) canoe is good for dealing with kids or dogs, we have no kids and only one 55lb dog who’s never been in a canoe before (but he has been in ski boats). He may or may not be able to handle it.

My wife and I are very amicable people, but the view never really changes in the stern, and, well, my wife doesn’t yet know how to steer so until we can get in some practice time, I’ll be doing steering duty. She’s also not as likely to practice if I can just sit in the stern and do the steering. In her own boat, she’s gotta learn. :wink:

As for those suggesting we just wait until we know where we’ll live until we buy a boat, I’m not sure that would really serve us best. Like I said in my original post, I see myself owning a wide variety of boats for a wide variety of conditions in the future. But right now, I can’t own a variety…but I can own one tandem or two solo boats that can do a wide range of things. Regardless of where I end up, I’m still going to want a boat that can handle generalist duties, though the frequencies may change a bit. Where I end up next year is also not where I’m going to be permanently. I’ll be in grad school for a few years, and then I’ll be in another place…which may or may not be permanent.

At this point, cost is really only a minor concern. I realize I’ll be spending a few grand, more than likely. If we go with a solo canoe, we could probably swing a composite boat. But, for a couple of solos, plastic or royalex will probably end up being what we can afford.

I suppose I really ought to try to find some place I can demo a solo canoe. I really have no idea where, though. The only place nearby I know of that actually carries canoes didn’t have any solo boats in stock. They can certainly order for me if that’s what I decide on, but I’ve gotta find somewhere else to demo the boat.

Paddle frequency is unknown at this point. I also enjoy mountain biking and backpacking, so paddling is not likely to become my only outdoor activity, but it will augment my enjoyment of the outdoors for sure. Like I said before, it will be a combination of day trips and longer trips…with day trips being more frequent. I may also take the boat out for quickie local paddles. I live close to a lot of water right now, and it kills me to miss out on it. Renting as often as I’d like would add up to the cost of a boat pretty quickly.

I started paddling about 5 years ago when our town began what’s become an annual paddle triathlon. I wanted an affordable multipurpose boat that would handle the slow moving Susquehanna River here in NE PA. The WS Pamlico served me well for its flexibility as a solo or tandem boat. It is a great boat for kids to get a stable start with Dad or Mom and to also paddle safely themselves. It is wide and has plenty of cargo carrying ability. Like you mentioned, I now have multiple boats for different conditions. The Pamlico comes in handy whenever a newby has to be convinced that all kayaks aren’t tippy.